Social work departments honored for service in Boston Marathon tragedy

Jun 23, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Social workers played a critical role in helping the victims, their families and friends, and the community heal in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings last year.

Staff members from Boston Medical Center were among the social work departments that the NASW Massachusetts Chapter honored for their service following the Boston Marathon bombings last year.

The NASW Massachusetts Chapter — during its 13th Biennial Social Work Symposium — honored the social work departments of seven trauma centers in Boston for their extraordinary service following the attacks that killed three spectators and injured more than 250 others.

The social work staff at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was among the recipients.

Barbara Sarnoff Lee, the center’s senior director of social work and patient/family engagement, said hospital staff is trained for disaster preparedness, and members have specific roles in an emergency situation.

Following last year’s bombings, Lee was the medical center’s mental health team leader. She coordinated services for patients and family, which included setting up a patient-assistance center.

“Our role during the crisis is to help identify patients and family members and assist in reunifying them,” she said.

Helping people with access to communication, food and clothing was also part of their work.

“We were doing what needed to get done and trying to bring some order to the chaos,” Lee said.

In the following days, a social worker was assigned to every bombing victim and their family for the duration of their stay at the medical center.

In addition, “we had a large role in supporting the (medical center) staff,” Lee said. “It takes a village to do this work, so part of our role is to think about what people need to sustain themselves.”

Social workers also helped staff members work through their feelings when the two bombing suspects were brought to the facility for emergency care after police took them into custody. One of the suspects died.

“We help anyone who comes to our doors,” Lee said.

The medical center also received assistance from the Israeli Trauma Coalition, which specializes in trauma recovery and promotes community resiliency.

In the months after the attacks, social workers hosted a series of programs for the medical center staff and the public to address their feelings and possible anxieties as this year’s Boston Marathon approached.

Being recognized for their work at the NASW Massachusetts Chapter symposium this year “was lovely and touching,” Lee said. “It was very special to be recognized by our peers.”

At the symposium, the Massachusetts Chapter also honored social work staff from Boston Children’s Hospital; Boston Medical Center; Tufts Medical Center; Massachusetts General Hospital; Brigham & Women’s Hospital; and Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital.

From the June 2014 NASW News